Location: Halstead, Kansas, United States

This is my seventh year at Halstead which is also where I live with my wife and my soon to be two year old daughter.

Sunday, October 01, 2006


I read an interesting article by David Shirbman discussing history and children in our nation. Here are some of the highlights:

I was not exactly stunned when I read that a perfectly reputable group, using perfectly simplistic methodology, came to the perfectly predictable conclusion that college freshmen were basically historically illiterate and that college seniors were little better

the temptation is there -- you think it's their fault. It's not. It's ours. They don't have historical amnesia, because you have to know something to be able to forget it. They have historical ignorance, and we gave it to them.

here is more to understanding history than merely knowing facts. Facts are the raw material of history. But, just as coke is not steel, facts are not history. And truly the best way to understand history -- and here the words know and understand do not mean the same thing -- is to study it.

In showing how governments were created or overthrown, how movements began and faded away, how historical forces gathered strength and then petered out, history provides few lessons but much perspective. Your grandfather had a word for perspective, and if you were lucky he personified it: wisdom.

Personally, I try very hard to get students in my classroom to get students to ask the question why? this is not an easy thing to do because people naturally economize and often will not exert effort if they do not see the benefit. It is difficult to see the benefit of knowing and understanding history often times. Still, I enjoy the challenge and will keep working at it.


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Blogger brittany said...

I think the reasearchers hit on a very important fact, but it's not just limited to the field of history. I don't think people know how to learn. In all honesty, the things I remember from high school aren't study habits or the mechanisms for comprehending challenging information, but a few facts scattered about that I managed to lock away in my memory and then throw back out on the tests. Now that I am in college, I have had to spend time learning the process I have to go through to actually understand what is going on.

This may go back to what you have always said about the education system and how it trains us for a factory setting. When, in that situation, would someone need to know the reasoning or logic behind what happens?

There are three types of intelligent people, as anyone would tell you. Book smart, street smart, and both. I'm not saying that it is up to schools to teach people common sense, but it flies in the face of logic to give some people such a high recommendation over the rest when in reality they are just better at taking tests.

Then again, students are by nature resistant to learning. So the root of the problem isn't necessarily in the way information is taught, but in the way students are taught to accept it.

9:00 AM  

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